Kingdom of Siam, 1932. If the pre-1960s Thai Comics production is a lost continent, some artists -such as Prayoon Chanyawongse, Sawas Jutharop or Hem Vejakorn– are well-known from local aficionados. To the best of my knowledge and in the literature I’ve been able to access over the past 5 years, only two lines are mentioning Jamnong Rodari (จำนงค์ รอดอริ; brother of best-known illustrator Fuen Rodari), hailed as one of the greatest cartoonists of the 1930s. Not much more on his art; I only saw a fragment of a comics strip at the National Library of Thailand, and two series of beautiful book illustrations. So I was thrilled to get my hands on a collection of comic strips cut from 1932 Siamese newspapers [miraculously unearthed in an attic], and discover his stunning long-form comics which are said to have influenced prominent cartoonists of the late 1930s. Here are two excerpts. First is the upper-tier of his 48(?)-page comics adaptation of then-famous play Raden Lundai; or the Pauper Prince (ระเด่นลันได; a parody of the classic “Inao” play), with additional captions in Klon-16 versification below the panels, probably from late 1932 [there’s an ad for Chaplin’s 1931 City Lights at the back, and American films were usually screened in Siam one year after the US release]. Character design and gestures might be informed by the traditional Nang Talung (หนังตะลุง) shadow puppetry [as was suggested to me by my kick-@ssistant Bird]. Second excerpt [which I edited as I wanted to show the three-panel dance sequence which is allocated over two tiers in the original] is even more interesting as it unveils an example of realist-art long-form comics seven years before Hem Vejakorn’s Sri Thanonchai. Also unusual; the story is set in contemporary Siam -and is a “migrant” narrative- under the title KatunNaiBoPhachoenChok (การ์ตูนนายโบ้เผชิญโชค; The Comics of Mr. Bo who seeks his fortune [in Bangkok]). Drawn in late 1932 [as the newspaper banner was not cut from the first comics installment]. It appears that these two comic strips series -with two different styles and genres- were drawn by Jamnong Rodari in late 1932 or early 1933.
One question is left unanswered. Why was Jamnong Rodari forgotten from Thai Comics History while being hailed as “one of the greatest Siamese cartoonists.” I would venture that, unlike contemporary artists such as Sawas Jutharop and slightly later Prayoon Chanyawongse, Jamnong Rodari didn’t collect his serialized stories in comic book format. Sawas and Prayoon’s comic strips collections are known, and might have helped their names and works to be remembered in the following decades. No trace, so far, of any collected works of Jamnong. Might be a lead. [EDIT: a collection of Raden Lundai was recently sold on internet, so at least one collection of newspaper strips in comic book format was released]. Nicolas Verstappen
PS: These are not my favorite excerpts from the series; the most stunning pieces will come later, in another format [if current COVID-crisis doesn’t shatter this research project].
“Zig et Puce” by Alain Saint-Ogan (FR), and “Tintin” by Hergé (BE)
“Jerry Spring” by Jijé (BE) & Lob (FR), and “Lucky Luke” by Morris (BE) & René Goscinny (FR)
Some Franco-Belgian classic comics acquired at La Crypte Tonique (Brussels) to illustrate -materially- the two courses dedicated to the History of Franco-Belgian “bandes dessinées” at Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok. PS: Merci Philippe Capart!
If words can be drawn, and images written, then the tension between words and images can become quite complex. For example, in “I Guess” (Raw 2:3, 1991, reprinted in Ware, Quimby), alternative cartoonist Chris Ware experiments with a radically disjunctive form of verbal/visual interplay: a six-page story that sustains parallel verbal and pictorial narratives throughout, never quite reconciling one to the other […]. Admittedly, “I Guess” represents a radical questioning of the way comics work […]. Dismantling genre as well as form, Ware’s experiment demonstrates the potential of comics to create challenging, multilayered texts: his simple broadly representational drawings contribute to, rather than mitigate, the suggestive complexity of the narrative, while the blank naive narrational voice both amplifies and undercuts the appeal of the drawings. (Charles Hatfield, “Alternative Comics: An Emerging Literature”, The University Press of Mississippi, 2005)
“Visitors in the Night” – or “Daddy’s Girl” as the book was eventually called – is a masterpiece of horror. And it’s all the more horrifying because it is true, and because the actions depicted, the innocence-killing, soul-destroying actions, are happening right now, everyday, all around the world. (Richard Sala, in XeroXed #4, July 2004)
Contains scenes of a sexual nature. Viewer discretion advised.